Hot Fuzz: Just how far IS your local Neighborhood Watch Group willing to go to keep their town nice and civil? Are they willing to murder jaywalkers, litterers, loiterers, the homeless, and bad actors for the greater good? For a comedy, that movie can be some serious paranoia fuel.
Nowhere is safe enough. The killer manages to butcher people inside a crowded movie theater, in a crowded campus in broad daylight (getting his/her merry way out before anyone notices, in both cases), get past policemen watching the victim's house, viciously attack them in a hospital...
Watch The Strangers alone when it's dark. You'll never be able to hear someone knocking on your door without feeling paranoia, ever AGAIN.
Have you ever tried running around your house at night, in a mask, in the dark? They had to be really familiar with your that couple's house... Also, Funny Games. They didn't even change clothes between killings.
Remember: at any given time, this◊ could be happening. Look behind you. Are you alone right now? Are you sure?
Fight Club. So there's this enormous anarchist group hiding right under your nose whose members like nothing more than commiting acts of violence and putting certain, er, bodily fluids in your food at restruants.
And anyone who's ever, for example, worked in a hospital kitchen, knows that the latter is very much Truth in Television.
Final Destination: Death itself is out to get you, and will do it under the guise of freak accidents.
This is one of the reasons why Chucky from the Childs Play series was so terrifying (until it turned into self-parody).
The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari. Children shouldn't be allowed within five miles of that movie. A sleepwalker who comes out of a box, wanders through a town with distinctly creepy architecture, and murders people in their sleep with a squiggly-bladed knife. For little to no reason whatever.
Several things about John Candy in Uncle Buck. "How would you like to spend the next several nights wondering if your crazy out-of-work bum uncle will shave your head while you sleep?"
The Hitcher: like the trailer says, 'Once you've met The Hitcher, you'll never pick up another.'
Well, the thing is, every zombie movie is this. Nobody in the movies thought a Zombie Apocalypse was really possible until they were in the middle of it and sometimes didn't think so until they were already being devoured. Since we don't know what diseases are really capable of, we can't really laugh it off and say "that could never happen" because for all we know, it could.
We do know how diseases spread. A disease as obvious and virulent as a zombie plague would not only be extremely easy to contain, it would also burn itself out long before it reached society-threatening proportions. The reason why the deadliest diseases haven't wiped out the humanity is because the victims don't survive long enough to spread them far.
Except if the virus were to be dormant until something activated it... Like something in the water, or after a set amount of years pass... What would happen if 90% of people living in big cities, like London or New York, were already infected, and THEY decide to put something in the water to activate it? For all we know, everyone who could do anything about it could be already infected...
Think about this: North and South America are separated from every other landmass on earth. There are people based on a separate landmass with agents on this landmass who want to kill us. All they'd have to do is modify rabies or some other disease, release it here, and watch as we tear ourselves apart, without any danger to their part of the world.
The defictionalization of Terminator provides us a meta-example. Thanks a bunch Britain. You just had to call your military communication satellites "Skynet", didn't you.
The Truman Show: You are being watched every second of your life. Your parents are only pretending to love you. Your friends are just actors — you don't even know their real names. The girl you love is playing you for a sap, so the people watching you can laugh at your misfortune. Everybody you have ever met is lying to you. Your entire life is an elaborate charade staged for the amusement of the rest of the world. And you are the only one who doesn't know. That's why your mom always seems amused at something whenever you talk to her. She's laughing at you behind your back, just like everyone else...
There's actually a horrifying philosophical concept called "The Problem of Other Minds" which states that philosophically, there is absolutely nothing and no way of being sure that anyone but you exists, and that other people are not mindless zombies or figments of your imagination made by your mind or a superior being to keep you pacified from being the only person in existence.
It's just a little more serious than that. Specifically, there is no empirical or rational method for determining that other people are actually conscious, once we assume that they actually exist.
I found that haunting until I realised that if it is true, the person who came up with the idea (can't remember who) doesn't exist either and then his ideas don't matter. And BTW, I am you.
The Number 23: The number is in everything, everywhere and there is no escape.
Toys. Deadly weapons in the form of creepy ... well ... toys.
Killers (the one with Ashton Kutcher and Katherine Heigl) What if your neighboorhood friends that you've known for a long time were really secret agents watching your every move for the past 3 years? And then they get an order to kill you for money, and then suddenly almost the whole neighboorhood is trying to terminate your ass? That's a pretty unsettling thought.
Your entire world is an illusion, your pets are holograms, and if you were to wake up from all this you would find yourself in a Crapsack World.
Many of the happenings in this movie involve common forms of paranoid / delusional mental illness actually coming true. Examples include the delusions that mysterious people are watching you without a plausible way of observing you, that mysterious government agents are out to get you, that somebody has implanted a chip or similar technological device under your skin to keep track of you, and on the positive side, delusions of having superpowers.
The reason why everything tastes like chicken.
And now we all know what a deja-vu means: The Matrix is changing and readjusting.
One could even consider of the full implications of this movie, such as that it is impossible to tell whether or not reality even exists or not, that even if you are released from a false reality there's no way to tell if that reality is true either, memory may be entirely fabricated and finally if you can make this mental leap, ANYTHING you think of besides consciousness cannot be proven to exist, and your personality may be fabricated with the only comfort being "Cogito Ergo Sum" translated being I think therefore I am. This is arguably one of the most powerful cases of paranoia fuel IN EXISTENCE.
The 2nd film made it even worse; They are out, but Zion itself is just another system of control that the Machines come along and destroy every once in a while in order to keep the Matrix running. The One is part of that system. All six of them before Neo came up with the truce. The only way that we know that there were six before Neo is because the head of the Matrix tells Neo that. He could well be lying.
What happens in the Matrix itself? Human technology advances until there are sentient computers in the virtual world who take over and end up using human as power sources and store the humans in another virtual reality. What evidence do we have that Zion and the rest of the world outside of the Matrix isn't just another simulation that's five levels of layered simulation deep rather than six levels of simulation deep.
Dark City; everything you are was created a few seconds ago by aliens, and your town is a giant laboratory.
Furthermore the aliens can give You any memory They want just to see what will happen. You could wake up tomorrow as a serial killer on the run from police. You could be completely innocent of Your crimes and never know it.
John Carpenter's The Thing (1982). If you actually want a helping of Paranoia Fuel Unleaded, try this interpretation of the ending, where Macready and Childs are waiting to die, hoping that the titular Thing is dead; they'reboththe Thing, and they hopeMacreadyis dead, so they can safely go back into hibernation, waiting for rescuers to hijack back to the mainland where they can eat the whole damned planet.You Can Panic Now.
OBJECTION!Word of God states that Macready wasn't the Thing, and in fact a short epilogue scene was planned (but never shot) in post-production that would have shown Macready at a hospital and confirming that he was Thing-free.
The Game. You don't know who else is playing. You have cameras in your home. People are watching you. And the object of the Game is to figure out the object of the game.
Wait, wait, wait. So, to win the Game, all I have to do is know that the point of the Game is not to think about the Game? xkcd was right!
There is a French film called Caché, (or Hidden) which tells the story of a middle class family. So far, so cosy. Then, they start getting these creepy videos of their own house sent to their door, accompanied by some rather disturbing crayon drawings... The film's director is Michael Haneke, the same guy who gave us Funny Games
Speaking of the Dark Knight, Batman and Lucius Fox can watch you undress thanks to your cellphone.
There's also Scarecrow's fear toxin. You could be mosying down the street and all of a sudden, a water vaporizer could cause a toxin to fill the air that would instantly send you into a personal Hell filled with whatever you're most scared of in the world, which might cause you to attack or even kill another person in frenzied "self-defense" or you could be attacked. And if your exposure was concentrated enough this could be permanent. Sweet dreams.
Joker's dialogue takes straight aim at people who remark about it would be cool if Batman existed in real life. Batman requires sci-fi tech, re-purposed military technology, and usually a human at their physical peak; a combination that's impossible to align together in the real world. All Joker requires is some bullets and fire and cheap explosions, which are readily available.
"See, I’m a man of simple tastes. I like dynamite…and gunpowder…and gasoline! Do you know what all of these things have in common? They’re cheap! "
REC: when you're in a place where there is a horrid virus running, the government will be very happy to lock you in with the infected and sit on their asses while you fight for your life (and most probably lose).
Oh, and the infection? It's actually weaponized demonic possession. One drop of bad blood in your system and your body goes insanely violent while your soul goes to Hell. And the Vatican has already given up on you.
Universal's The Invisible Man (1933). A crazed lunatic with the Joker's outlook and desire to cause widespread random destruction amongst innocent civilians — only he's invisible. Talk about an enemy impossible to escape from. The other Universal Monsters from that time may have been scary and more physically imposing, but at least you could see them. You at least had a chance of running away...
Made worse in the fact that he could strike anywhere, at any time. Take this example: Thousands of police are swarming the country, and then the Invisible Man knocks out a train operator and proceeds to derail a train and kill over one hundred people, who probably weren't expecting it at all.
The Alien quadrilogy(?). Those creepy facehuggers could be hiding anywhere... including the back of your monitor!
Jim Henson's The Cube. Yes, thatJimHenson. ...You know what? Just watch it. Assume nothing, and enjoy the happy ending. Oh, and have fun with the idea that reality as you experience it now may suddenly be revealed as an illusion before you go back to the debilitating chaos that is The Cube.
Congratulations, you have become exactly what the government of the novel's Alternate Japan wanted you to become. The stated purpose of The Program is to sow enough paranoia and mistrust among the populace so nobody ever even thinks of rebelling against the regime.
Wait a minute, wouldn't they already do that?
Yes, and a student is killed at the beginning of the conceit for refusing to go along with the government, who effectively sent a S.W.A.T. team to inform them of their circumstances and give them supplies.
They Live!. Even with all of its 80's narm, the concept that aliens among us are controlling humanity through subliminal messaging and most have no way of determining who's a human and who's not. They could be anyone, your husband, your wife, your bank teller, your president.
So if they didn't want anyone finding out about them, why'd they make a whole boxload of glasses that let you see through The Masquerade and then just leave it lying around where anyone could find it? Because they wanted someone to find it. Its all part of their plan.
Actually the glasses are the property of the rebels, although there's no explanation of how they knew how to make them.
Watching Gattaca will make you start picking off strands of hair from inside your hat.
The Austrian film and its American remake, Funny Games. Watch it, and then walk home from the bus stop after dark. I dare you. You'll never lend anyone a couple of eggs or a cup of sugar again.
Nowhere near as extreme as the above example— being a very disappointing cheap crime thriller— but watching the victim-choosing scene from Murder by Numbers was fodder for multiple unpleasant dreams. Never mind the fact that the death itself was high-grade narm. That scene on its own... (Hey. See those two nice young guys in that idling car over there— couple or pair? They look like they're pretty into their conversation already— and then hey, they're looking at you...)
21. You go into a casino. There are some guys watching your every move from a room in the back with a bunch of TVs. If you so much as look at someone funny then they decide you're a card counter and a bunch of big guys with guns show up, take you in back, and beat you senseless. I swear to god, I'm never going into a casino. EVER!
When A Stranger Calls — yeah, it's impossible to get a phone call from the same house you're in (unless it's a cell phone), but somehow, that just makes that moment before you pick up the phone all the creepier.
Actually, back in the day of rotary phones, it was possible to dial a code and hang up, and any phone in the house on that same line would ring... Logically, if there's no incoming call to trace, it's coming from inside the house!
The monsters from The Descent were cavemen who, rather than leaving the cave, had withdrawn further and further in, managed not to be wiped out by anything, and evolved into crawlers◊. The cave has gone undiscovered because the few people who have found it and gone down never made it out. The Paranoia Fuel comes because there's nothing to say this really couldn't have happened. They really could be down in a cave somewhere... And as soon as you set foot in that cave, you're a dead man.
The Grudge. The creepy little Japanese boy and the woman could pop up anywhere!
The Grudge is about a curse that lingers in a house. But if you go into the house, it sticks to you until it kills you. And anyone who comes into close proximity to a cursed person also catches the curse. Any house a cursed person lives in will itself eventually become cursed. Anyone a cursed person calls over the phone, even on the other side of the planet? Cursed. The end result is likely to be total depopulation of the planet. Have a good night.
The Ring is about a video tape that kills people if they watch it. And it looks like any other tape, so there's no way to know beforehand that it's a cursed tape. Welcome to Paranoia City.
This xkcd strip shows that it's worse than you think.
The original commercial for the American version was pretty bad as well. It was a slightly edited version of the tape itself that was only played in the dead of night, with ZERO explanation of what it was.
Videodrome. Its psychotic genius only topped by its mad depravity, this film starts us off with a pirate UHF/cable channel operator who seeks to boost his ratings by latching onto a snuff TV program whose name is where the movie gets its title. Progressively, the viewer is introduced to concepts and ever-stranger special effects that warp the difference between reality, flesh, and video, until it's impossible to tell what's "really" happening...but whatever it is, it's very very bad. Readily doubles as Mind Screw material.
Try watching Saw for the first time by yourself at night and just see if you don't race around the house, checking your closets with a blunt object in hand.
Orphan. Adoption agencies are officially screwed...
Red Eye. That cute, well-dressed guy you met at the airport bar is working for some Terrorists Without a Cause. You're stuck on an overnight flight with a violent sociopath who's trying to assassinate a major government figure and his family (including young children) for purposes unknown. And he needs your help doing it.
By the way, he's been watching you for weeks.
To the point where he can tell if you're lying about your favorite cocktail.
Why anybody would say that, especially five times in front of a mirror? You can't do that by accident. You might as well just say "Candle Jack" and save yourself some ti I'm gonna need more rope!
Same for Bloody Mary. Actually, if you put a mirror directly behind you and in front of you, said the Bloody Mary spiel, then ducked, Bloody Mary would probably be stuck flying in one mirror and out the other for all eternity, like this.
The President's Analyst - A psychiatrist's patient reveals he's really a CIA agent and has been screening him for the title position, then matter-of-factly points out the electronic bug he'd planted in his office who knows how long ago. The new job is a rush, if a bit hectic...then the FBI takes his girlfriend away for security reasons, telling him he talks in his sleep (now how did they know that?) With nobody to talk to he's getting more and more on edge...then he starts seeing guys in black suits and dark glasses watching him...oh, and it's a comedy.
The Reavers. And their origin. You can't stop the signal. Berserk Button-inducing subliminal messages are put in commercials by the government. The Operative can paralyze you and then position a sword under you. Oh, and he doesn't officially exist. And he KNOWS he's a monster. Brr.
The Academy, and what they do to people who are far above average in intelligence.
Toy Story. Your toys, plushies/soft toys, and figurines are alive. And they see eeeeverything you do. If you've ever vented your anger on them, or done cruel/weird things to them, you are a monster. Some children, after seeing Toy Story, became terrified by the thought that their toys were alive. The scene where Woody leads the toys to revolt against Sid probably didn't help. The fact that all of Sid's toys are cannibalized horrors that he's variously torn apart and rammed back together in numerous grotesque ways probably helps even less.
Woody: We toys (slow Exorcist Head) can see everything... so play nice!
That leads right to more Paranoia Fuel - are all toys alive? What about ones with no movable parts? Do they feel angry about being created just to be helpless? What if they could unleash that anger on us?
It's been shown that even toys with no moving parts can still move and speak (a la Army Men)
To add to that: What if Lego bricks were alive and built themselves into changing, morphing abominations when we slept? Those bricks you step on that hurt? Those are the ones that couldn't homogenize into the greater mass and escape before you observed them.
The film Law Abiding Citizen is about a realistic version of Ledger's Joker. Except he's not so much "spreading fear" as "killing everyone who let off the guy who killed and raped his wife and daughter". And he continues to do this even after they put him in jail. Luckily, "realism" includes a crippling vulnerability to spanners.
The 2009 film Paranormal Activity certainly ranks very highly on the paranoia fuel list. Seriously, this film is VERY fond of preying on the complete helplessness of being asleep and all the sorts of unpleasantness that can happen without your knowledge.
After you watch 1408 you will never feel safe while being alone in a hotel room...ever again
Shutter Island. If you run afoul of the wrong corrupt authorities and they manage to convince the world that you're crazy, it doesn't matter what you say, what you do or how right you are, you are powerless and they can lock you away forever. Your protests will only be taken as proof that you are, indeed, mentally ill. Everyone, including the government, is in on the conspiracy. And then it turns out it was all a Mind Screw— there is no conspiracy, you actually are crazy, and everything you believe about your life is a lie created by your own delusional mind. Which is worse.
Frenzy. Given that spazzy little bundle of terror can be bashed to pieces and simply reformat himself into some other innocuous little device, he's prime (no pun intended) for this trope.
The idea that your home devices could be brought to life as nasty, feral little robo-critters doesn't help either. See the computer you're reading this on right now? Are you listening to your iPod right now? Maybe you have your cellphone beside you? The Decepticons could be listening in on your conversations right now and you would never even know it.
If Frenzy is enough to put you on edge, then Laserbeak takes it Up to Eleven. He can transform into anything he pleases. He could be anywhere, plotting your demise as we speak.
Deliverance: Imagine being out in the middle of the woods, as far from civilization as you could possibly get. Now imagine that someone could be watching your every move, from anywhere in the vast woods and mountains. And he thinks you're sexy. Feel like going camping?
Knowing. Most of the stuff that is predicted? It's highly possible. Most of those disasters made me afraid of planes, trains, and the SUN for a while...
The otherwise forgettable Sylvester Stallone film D-Tox starts with his wife being murdered, more exactly shot in the head/eye while answering the door. With a silencer. In fact, most assassin/serial killer, or even home invasion works have this potential. Just imagine, you're sitting at home, every time you hear a knock, you nonchalantely go to answer a potential murdered/thief while thinking how boring your life is. And those may be your last thoughts on Earth.
Inception: You could be dreaming now, and everyone else is poking around your brain trying to steal your secrets. And if you die, you either wake up, or get sent to Dream Hell (and you will not even be able to tell the difference). This film is probably even more effective than the Nightmare on Elm Street series at scaring people into trying not to fall asleep.
Remember the distortion of time in dreams? Listen to a r e a l l y slowed-down version of "je ne regrette rien" and see if you recognize that.
"Stealing your secrets" is not even the worst thing. They might be putting thoughts in your head, which you will perceive as your own. Every time you have a peculiar idea, you will wonder if it as actually your own.
One Hour Photo gives us the concept of people we take for granted yet entrust with bits and pieces of our lives that, with the right dedication and resourcefulness, could be used to invade our privacy.
Wag The Dog is an example, not in the "I'm locking all my doors" sort of way, but in the sense that everything you may think you know about the rest of the world, about the news, about history, could have easily been made up.
It's worse: How many stories have the media fabricated? How many stories has the government ordered fabricated? How much of the truth is being concealed from you? How much of what you know is bullshit? Can you trust anyone?
White Wolf put it best when they listed this movie as inspirational viewing for one of their Technocracy sourcebooks: "If the movie didn't scare you, then you weren't paying attention."
Gamera (Heisei era). A flock of man-eating bat-like monsters could swoop down at any minute and devour you. Yup, just right out in the open. Oh, and that giant turtle that's supposed to be humanity's protector from the giant bats? Yeah, he can kill you as well without so much as a second thought while he obsessivley chases after the giant bat monsters. Oh, and they breed asexually. So, you can have only a handful one moment and then thousands the next.
Revenge Of Irys. You know that cute little tentacle monster you just adopted? It feeds by draining the life-force out of things, including nearly everyone in the village you grew up in. Oh, and it wants to merge with you to become the ultimate killing machine.
Gojira. A nuclear bomb could awaken/mutate a monster bent on killing you and all of humanity. The only way to kill him is to use a weapon even worse than the nuclear bomb, and said weapon kills its victims via asphyxiation (You'll die a slow horrible death as oxygen molecules are ripped apart underwater and you're reduced to bone...and then ash.). Think you're safe now? Nope. Turns out the one you just killed was the first one of its kind. Another one is going to ineviteablly show up.
The Rocky Horror Picture Show. That creepy castle you drive by? It could be the home of a psychotic transvestite alien who can emotionally manipulate you into having sex with him.
The "floorshow" scene. You can be brainwashed into nothing but a "meat puppet" that said alien can force to perform for his own sick amsusement. Even if you're utterly aware of what's going on (IE: Dr. Scott), there's still nothing you can do to stop it.
Half of your brain could be removed by aliens to create an artificial human, and you'll be locked in the freezer for Lord knows how long.
AND if you ever escape from said freezer you will promptly be hacked to death with an ice pick.
In Pan's Labyrinth, during her narrow escape from the Pale Man, Ofelia drops some of the chalk she uses to create doorways, and doesn't have time to retrieve it. Think about that. A piece of chalk, that has the power to create magical doorways to anywhere the user needs to go, is now lying on the floor in the lair of a child-eating monster who was just awoken and is ravenously hungry and violent. What's going to happen if he picks it up and figures out how to use it?
There's another, potentially even creepier piece of Fuel in that scene: when Ofelia closes the way to the alternate world, the Pale Man's bangs and knocks on the door slowly turn into ordinary creaks of an old wooden house. Now think about it: maybe every time the house creaks earlier in the movie, it's because something wants to come through. Every time you hear a creak, it's an otherworldy monster behind the thickness of a shadow, trying to find an entrance to our world...
Elephant. A normal day at school could suddenly turn into a complete massacre. Anybody could get killed. People you've seen in the hallways once. Your friends. You. Enjoy your youth!
The closing narration of Gremlins. If anything electrical or mechanical in your house breaks, "turn on all the lights, check the closets and cupboards and look under all the beds, because you never can tell. There just might be a gremlin in your house."
Arlington Road. Your nice neighbours are terrorists. They've gotten away with it before and they'll get away with it again. If you try to stop them they'll get away with it anyways, and frame you. They've probably already done it to someone else like you.
The Adjustment Bureau. You only think you're in control of your life—the whole thing has been mapped out by a Celestial Bureaucracy. If you risk going off track, they can do anything from making you lose your keys to causing accidents to prevent it. If you try to fight them, they can erase your entire personality. And they could be anyone—well, anyone wearing a hat, that is.
Think Old Yeller is just a classic, heartwarming Tear Jerker movie? Try being a kid who's never heard of rabies before. The idea of a disease that will turn a seemingly harmless animal (or kid, as far as you know) into a vicious, mindless beast that will attack anyone and everyone, even its beloved master is enough Paranoia Fuel for the rest of your life.
In the Mouth of Madness. Your life could be a product of an insane author. The color of your eyes are just his favorite color.
The movie adaptation of the Sutter Cane's book that slowly makes you insane and turns you into a monster? You just watched it.
Contagion: Touch anything, be near anyone, and you DIE.
Pontypool: What Jaws did for swimming, this movie does for the entire English language.
Disturbia. How well do you know your neighbors? If you do know them fairly well, how can you be sure that they aren't violent serial killers? And should you figure out that they are, in fact, violent serial killers, should you notify the authorities? What if they don't believe you, and all you've done is let your serial killing neighbor know that you now know too much. Also, having serial killers for neighbors is absolutely, 100% Truth in Television as not even serial killers tend to completely isolate themselves.
The short film Pencil Face. How many wishes will you get right before you conjure something horrible?
As ridiculous a movie as Battleship is, you gotta wonder if it's such a good idea to drunk-dial the Universe, basically announcing to any potentially-hostile (and, according to some experts, evolution had to have made any potential alien hostile) "Here we are! Come and take what you want!", considering we have no way to defend ourselves from any race that has the power to cross interstellar distances.
The 2006 remake of The Omen has Damien's mother killed in mere seconds. Damien's evil nanny comes to her hospital room at night and uses a syringe to inject an air bubble into her IV line. How easy would it be for anyone to do that to you, even during normal visiting hours?
Universal Soldier: Day of Reckoning'' is full of this. You could be a cloned genetically-enhanced sleeper agent, living a typical life until suddenly you got sick and hears voices that briefs you on your new mission. After you completed said mission, you know nothing about it because your memories were tampered with again.
Oldboy is absolutely steeped in this. Have you ever made a careless remark? Congratulations, that careless remark may have ruined somebody's life, and now they're devoting the rest of it to pay you back tenfold.
The Blob: The Blob can appear anywhere, grab onto you, and begin to eat you. That means that you're practically dead the second it touches you. Oh, and running from it probably won't help, because the '80s remake makes things scarier by giving the Blob a more aggressive attitude and tendrils to grab you.
The World's End: Just imagine returning to your hometown and finding out everyone you grew up with has been replaced by robots. Then, there's the fact that all of technology over the last 20 years has been a result of the influence of an extraterrestrial community called the Network.
The Faculty: Everyone at your school has been replaced by an alien. You'll never be able to look at a teacher the same way again. The Principal: "Come to my office, we'll have a little chat." Nope.